OB arrived mid-semester carrying a ragged black guitar case with a BLAME GE sticker on the side, an overstuffed backpack, and a mesh onion bag full of hotel soaps. I got back from lunch and there he was, sitting on the empty bed in my room.
He waved a yellow room assignment sheet, and I stuck out my hand to shake.
“I’m Brad,” I told him.
It took him a few seconds to transfer the paper to his other hand, an awkward pause I’d soon come to recognize.
“OB.” He swallowed the letters as he spoke. He folded the yellow paper into matchbook size and dropped it on the bare bed with at least a dozen others of similar configuration. He began to sort them into piles.
“Obi? Like in Obi-Won Kenobi?” I asked.
He didn’t look up. “Yeah, right. Or Opie from 'Andy Griffith.' Whatever.”
“OB as in what, then? Obstetrician?”
He dipped his head and gave it a quick shake to the side to get his blonde hair out of his eyes. He stared at my face.
“Oliver Baxter. Tell me you wouldn’t be OB?” He went back to sorting.
“Yeah, man. I’d be OB.”
He unzipped the backpack and upended it on the bed. I watched him unpack. He scooped up a slew of folded papers and dumped them in his middle desk drawer. His clothes were all black, even his underwear, and he put each piece away one at a time, as if he had to think about it. He had three books with homemade brown paper covers that he stashed on the shelf of his desk and a dozen or so spiral notebooks with inked warnings on the outside, like "Read This and Die" and "Keep Out. This Means You."
"Journals?" I asked him.
"What?" he said.
"The notebooks," I nodded toward his desk. "You keep a journal? I tried it, but I couldn't stay awake."
"Stories," he said.
"You're a writer? Cool," I said. "So's my girlfriend."
"You?" he said.
"History and Phys ed. Secondary ed."
OB opened his guitar case. His guitar looked like a yellow mummy, tightly wrapped in cloth that turned out to be his sheets. He examined the instrument for...